Crystal Grill – Johnny Ballas

Johnny Ballas
423 Carrollton Ave.
Greenwood, MS 38930
(662) 453-6530

Food has been served on this corner of Carrolton Avenue and Lamar Street for almost a century. The place began as a little diner called the Elite Cafe and evolved into the Crystal Grill under the ownership of Jim Liollio. His brother-in-law, Mike Ballas, who was raised in Greece and came to Mississippi in the 1940s, soon became a partner and eventually took over and shaped the Crystal Grill into what it is today: a two-hundred seat restaurant with the biggest menu around. Mr. Ballas and his son Johnny Ballas pride themselves on serving the best food at the best prices, and it is certain that everyone can eat happy here. One thing they are known for, though, is their “mile high pie”–chocolate or coconut with honest to gosh meringue. Over the past few decades not a lot has changed other than the restaurant’s size (notice the original tile floors in the photograph at left). Some of the waitresses have been there for forty years, and locals have brought their children and their children’s children through the same front doors for Sunday dinner for decades. Sunday dinner is an experience in itself and a great way to get some local color. You can choose a dinner prayer from their custom “Four Faiths” menu and nosh on a yeast roll, the recipe for which came from a home economics teacher at Greenwood High School.

Date of interview:

June 18, 2003

Interviewer:

Amy C. Evans

Photographer:

Amy C. Evans


My earliest memory of they Crystal was when I was probably about six or seven years old. My dad brought me back in the kitchen and stacked two Co-Cola cases on top of each other. I had a little butcher knife, and he had me whacking on some ground beef back there, which I thought I was really a big deal.

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